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» Critical thinking
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Number Sense: How to Help Your Kids Reach their Math Potential

math problems for girls

Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

With the back to school season upon us, memories of my elementary school years flash before me. I don’t know about you, but as a child I knew instinctively what type of student I was and what type of student I wasn’t. While subjects like English, Language and History felt natural, I was never one for math.  I was reminded of my gut feeling about math as I read the New York Times article, “In Future Math Whizzes, Signs of ‘Number Sense’“. The article confirms math abilities can be identified even before children enter school.

The New York Times reports children as young as three have a ‘number sense’, or intuition when it comes to mathematical concepts. In research that first appeared in the Developmental Sciences journal, Dr. Melissa Libertus, psychologist at Johns Hopkins University, found preschoolers were able to use their number sense to estimate whether there were more blue or yellow dots flashing on the screen even before they could count. The children with better number sense were also better at simple math problems.

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How Eating Dinner as a Family Improves Critical Thinking

Mormon Family Dinner

Image by More Good Foundation via Flickr

Growing up, my family sat down for dinner together seven days a week. My grandfather was a chef, so dinnertime was always a treat. Five and seven course meals were the norm back then. My grandfather’s day revolved around meal preparation. There were seven of us at the dinner table, so making dinner was a time consuming process. He would  start dinner preparation after lunchtime and soon our house would be filled with the wonderful aromas of ginger, garlic and fragrant spices.  These days, families are sitting down to dinner less and less. It is estimated that only 10% to 25% of families eat together 4 days a week. This is leaving our children at a disadvantage – especially when it comes to critical thinking. Outside of an educational setting, what better place is there than the dinner table for a child to practice, exercise, and experiment with critical thinking skills?

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Imaginative Thinking Isn’t Just for Kids

"We are told never to cross a bridge unti...

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Over the past week the word “imagination” has been popping into my mind. I just celebrated a birthday and was remembering the many articles I’ve read about creativity and aging. Studies have found creativity dwindles with age as people hit their 60’s. Though I’m a few decades shy of my 60’s, I began wondering what  effects age has on my personal creativity. Given children are more prone to imagination than adults, I looked to my 5-year old for comparison.

What I enjoy about my 5-year old is his randomness. On my birthday, we celebrated by having a family lunch at a local restaurant. My 5-year old asked if his stuffed pet, Gussie Lion, could come along. He stated, “It’s a very special day and Gussie Lion would like to come to lunch.”

Of course, I enthusiastically replied, “Yes.”

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Letting Kids Win at Games Builds Creative Thinking Muscles

View of a game of Strange Synergy, a card and ...

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My 5-year old loves playing board games. He also loves creating his own rules and ways of playing which drives my 7-year old crazy because he views this as “cheating.” Recently, rather than playing board games or card games with both kids at the same time, I’ve been playing with each child individually. This gives my 5-year old time to stretch his creative thinking muscles and my 7-year old a chance to enjoy an age appropriate playing environment.

In separating play time between the two boys, I’ve gained some insights. My oldest son tends to be more literal, by-the-book, and logical. To him, it doesn’t make sense to create your own rules. He sees right and wrong…and there are never any gray lines. My older son loves building things, math, science, IT class and sports. On the other hand, my younger son tends to be more imaginative. He enjoys divergent thinking. With him, there’s always lots of gray. My younger son seems to be drawn to coming up with ideas, inventing things, creative story telling and art.

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A Yard Sale Find Brings Out the Scientists in the Family

Microscope icon

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Over the weekend our local high school held a yard sale. The new high school is set to open soon and the organizers of the yard sale collected all of the unused items from the old high school and pulled together a fundraiser. At first my boys hemmed and hawed about going to a yard sale. But once they entered the gym, they were fascinated. Both kids immediately set their sights on the table of microscopes. A few minutes and a few dollars later, we were the proud owners of one of them.

When we returned home, the boys couldn’t wait to use the microscope. Luckily, my husband has been taking science classes for the past two years and set the course for exploration. First we had to think up some ideas for what we could use to hold our specimen. Unfortunately, the microscope didn’t come with any slides. Though we began ideating on ways to use plastic food wrap, we settled on using the glass from wallet-sized photo frames.

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Homework Wars: Why Limiting Homework is Not the Solution

"Teacher Appreciation" featured phot...

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Ever since the invention of school, there have been debates over homework. Should we institute more homework or less homework? Or, should we ban homework all together?

In The New York Times article, New Recruit in the Homework Revolt: The Principal, parents, teachers and educational administrators sound off on the homework debate. After reading the article, one thing is clear. Limiting homework is not the solution. Why, you ask?

Parents, teachers and administrators are not aligned on the problem we are trying to solve by limiting homework. This misalignment only adds fuel to the fire.

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Bringing Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity to a School Near You

Magnifying

Image by Clover_1 via Flickr

Last summer The Creativity Crisis made the cover of Newsweek. The report documented the decline in creativity in U.S.  school children. This leaves American children at a disadvantage when it comes to competing in a global economy. With social, economic, and political challenges getting ever more complex, creative leadership is rising in importance. In fact, a study of 1500 chief executives identified creativity as the most important competency for the future. If creativity is that important, shouldn’t it be taught in schools? Though embracing creativity within schools is slow going, I am hopeful change is coming soon. On June 10, 2011,

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Kids (and Adults) Learn Better When They’re Having Fun

happy(07-08-16)

Image by jijis via Flickr

It’s a fact – kids learn better when they’re having fun. Actually, adults do too. To test out the theory, all you need to do is survey a group of folks who have just sat through a two hour PowerPoint meeting. How much of the presentation do you think they absorbed? In probing, I’m sure you’ll hear more about “death by PowerPoint” than tangible lessons from the meeting. The complaints you’d hear from adults are the same as the ones you’d hear from kids who are expected to sit quietly in class and absorb the lesson plan.

But, this doesn’t need to be the way. There are many engaging ways to teach.

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Creativity for a Cause: Nothing Can End Hunger

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An informal promise my cohort made when we began studying creativity was to always use creativity for good. As such, whenever I see interesting ways to tap into creativity for a cause, I take notice.

The other day I came across an interesting campaign for the Rhode Island Food Bank. The campaign moved me – I loved the creative problem solving that went into getting people to think about and take action on hunger. Unlike much of the cause marketing that we’re surrounded by, this campaign tugged at my heart strings without clubbing me over the head with gripping images of hunger. There was something both intellectually and emotionally appealing. Take a look for yourself…

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Ideas are a Result of Genetics and Experiences

Whitman Giant Tell-A-Tale edition, 1963

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The other day I saw my 7-year old son’s homework strewn about on the kitchen table and asked if he needed help. He replied, “It’s not due til Friday. I don’t need to start it yet.”

I though, ‘Ah, the makings of a procrastinator.”

After a bit of encouraging, my son decided to do a portion of his homework. The assignment included reading a book, completing a worksheet, and creating a diorama. My son had read the book previously, so he started on the worksheet. To complete the worksheet, my son needed to list the main characters, the title, and then write a few sentences about the beginning, middle, and the ending of the book.

Interestingly, as he began what I considered a language arts assignment, he started asking me about math. My son’s questions included, “What’s 31 divided by 3? Can you show me how to divide? What is a third of 31?”

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